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The Church in the Digital Age. Keynote for URC. July 2014


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Keynote for education group URC away week, on the focus of 'The Church in a the Digital Age'

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The Church in the Digital Age. Keynote for URC. July 2014

  1. 1. THE CHURCH IN THE A DIGITAL AGE Dr Bex Lewis Research Fellow in Social Media and Online Learning, CODEC, St John’s, Durham University Director, Digital Fingerprint
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  3. 3. “There is a revolution sweeping across the globe, driven by the massive growth of the internet and internet related technologies. Known as the Digital Revolution it is on par with other great global shifts such as the Agrarian Revolution and the Industrial Revolution. And it is completely changing the landscape of how we communicate, how we influence, how we relate. This isn’t simply about coming to grips with a new technology to assist us in our work, but requires of us a fundamental shift in our processes, our structures and approaches. If we don’t respond then as Eric Hoffer states, we will find ourselves, ‘beautifully equipped to deal with a world that no longer exists.’” Event Publicity, 2010 The Digital Revolution?
  4. 4. 15th C: The Printing Press Image Source: Wikipedia
  5. 5. 1964: Marshall McLuhan Image Source: Wikipedia
  6. 6. “Before the press … information was passed mouth-to-ear, scribe-to-scribe; it was changed in the process; there was little sense of ownership and authorship. In the five-century- long Gutenberg era, text did set how we see our world: serially with a neat beginning and a defined end; permanent; authored. Now, we are passing out of this textual era and that may well affect how we look at our world. That may appear to change how we think. But it won't change our wires.” Pew Report, 2012 quoting Jeff Jarvis, Journalist
  7. 7. “Technology should not dictate our values or our methods. Rather, we must use technology out of our convictions and values.” John Dyer, From the Garden to the City, 2011,p5
  8. 8. Christians and Churchgoing
  9. 9. Churchgoing in Decline?
  10. 10. John Wesley “I look upon the world as my parish.”
  11. 11. "If you want to build a presence in the social media platform, then you need to be present." - @unmarketing
  12. 12. Even though in practice, face-to-face communication can, of course, be angry, negligent, resistant, deceitful and inflexible, somehow it remains the ideal against which mediated communication is judged as flawed. Prof Sonia Livingstone, Children and the Internet: Great Expectations and Challenging Realities. 2009, p26
  13. 13. A moral panic may be defined as an episode, often triggered by alarming media stories and reinforced by reactive laws and public policy, of exaggerated or misdirected public concern, anxiety, fear, or anger over a perceived threat to social order. Companion-to-Moral-Panics-Intro.pdf Image Credit: Stockfresh
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  15. 15. Right back to Socrates… This discovery of yours will create forgetfulness in the learners' souls, because they will not use their memories; they will trust to the external written characters and not remember of themselves…you give your disciples not truth, but only the semblance of truth; they will be hearers of many things and will have learned nothing. (Phaedrus, Benjamin Jowett trans.) http://bigthink. com/learning- from-the- past/socrates- wouldnt-trust- the-web- should-we- trust-him Image Credit: Wikipedia
  16. 16. Tweeting in Church? • Good Thing? • Bad Thing? • Why might/might not people tweet in church? • What might encourage more ‘engagement’? Image Credit: Stockfresh
  17. 17. The Church Front Door? For many churchgoing is no longer the ‘cultural norm’. People don’t actively ignore the church: they don’t even think about it. … With literally billions in the digital spaces, the online social spaces presented by churches need to be appealing, welcoming, and not look like they are just an afterthought: they are now effectively the ‘front door’ to your church for digital users, and you ignore those spaces at your peril. Image Credit:
  18. 18. Dr Sara Batts (2013)
  19. 19. Mission opportunities are very different… when to step over the church threshold is an unknown experience - compared with attitudes when there is a known church to which they can return. Rev Lynda Barley, Head of Research and Statistics for the Church of England (2007)
  20. 20. Source: Netcasters?
  21. 21. The Growth of the Internet
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  23. 23. Understanding Digital Culture
  24. 24. Those starting churches must do so from within the cultures they are trying to reach … so that those who respond face only the challenge of Christian faith … and not that of having to adopt a foreign church culture. Such new Christians are thus able to remain within their own culture as change-agents. Graham Cray, Fresh Expressions
  25. 25. The digital environment is not a parallel or purely virtual world, but is part of the daily experience of many people, especially the young. Social networks are the result of human interaction, but for their part they also reshape the dynamics of communication, which builds relationships: a considered understanding of this environment is therefore a prerequisite for a significant presence there. Pope Benedict XVI (2013)
  26. 26. God is a communicating God: “In the beginning was the word, and the word was God…”. God is extravagant in communication – he is not a silent God who has to be tempted into communicating with people. Rev Prof David Wilkinson MediaLit, 2010 Image Credit: Durham University
  27. 27. #DIGIDisciple those who seek to live out their Biblically-informed Christian faith in the digital space, exploring both what it means to be a disciple in the digital age, and also how the digital age affects or alters discipleship.
  28. 28. digital-disciple-with-changingworship
  29. 29. What does it mean to ‘love your neighbour’in a world in which a ‘friend’might as easily be the kid from down the street you grew up with as a woman in Botswana whom you’ve never seen in person and only know in the context of Facebook status updates, photos, and notes? … How can we negotiate spiritual interaction in these contexts without losing sight of basic elements of Christian faith expressed in traditional embodied and geographically located practices of prayer, worship, and compassion towards others? Elizabeth Drescher, Tweet if You Heart Jesus (2011, 127)
  30. 30. We are not selling something to the world that will make more people like us, believe in our story, join our churches. We are trying to be something in the world that invites connection and compassion, encourages comfort and healing for those in need, and challenges those in power to use that power in the service of justice and love. Elizabeth Drescher, Tweet if You Heart Jesus (2011, 127)
  31. 31. [If we are…] means by which God communicates and reveals himself through his Spirit, then our blog posts, status updates, tweets, artistic images, and online comments should be products of a life transformed by Christ and indwelled by his Spirit.As restored image bearers, our online presence and activity should image the Triune God. Byers, A. Theomedia (2013, 196)
  32. 32. It’s something about the informality and distance; the ability to pause and think, which can be difficult in a conversation; and the way discussions can pick up where they left off several hours, days or weeks later. Emma Major, BIGBible Post, 2012
  33. 33. Forms of Church Image Source: RGBStock
  34. 34. Darren Rowse, @Problogger I loved working up a sermon in the lead up to giving it. Researching,looking at what others had to say on the topic, piecing together thoughts, looking for illustrations and examples (tangents) and then practicing giving it and making the last minute tweaks and additions in the day before Sunday arrived.
  35. 35. The conspicuous and centralProtestant sermon is one of these. It made sense in a education- and resource-poor (and frankly, entertainment-poor)age,but if I held forth for twentyminutes or more everySunday, I expect to be regularly challenged (perhaps mentally, and in an unspokenway) by people who wouldGoogle for facts during my oratory. Scott Wells
  36. 36. "The digital age isn’t killing off preaching, but what the survey suggests is that too much preaching is doing too little to motivate people to look at the world differently and therefore live in it differently," said Paul Johns, a director at the College of Preachers. "If that’s so, we have to question what we preachers are actually saying about the Bible and about contemporary issues, and how well we’re engaging with our congregations.” (2009)
  37. 37. Christian Bloggers Image Source: RGBStock
  38. 38. Photoshopped Selves? Image Source: Stockfresh
  39. 39. On the Emmaus Road, Jesus was recognized in the breaking of bread rather than in the exegesis of Scripture. That’s an intriguing lesson to learn when so much of the web and so much of digital communication is about proclamation rather than reception. Pete Phillips et al, 2013: 10
  40. 40. "If you want to build a presence in the social media platform, then you need to be present." - @unmarketing
  41. 41. “We should not overlook the fact that those who for whatever reason lack access to social media run the risk of being left behind,” with a reminder that communication is ultimately a human rather than a technological achievement. Pope Francis, World Communications Day, 2014
  42. 42. The Digital Age? Image Source: RGBStock
  43. 43. Saint Teresa of Avila (adapted by Meredith Gould, 2010) Christ Has No Online Presence but Yours Christ has no online presence but yours, No blog, no Facebook page but yours, Yours are the tweets through which love touches this world, Yours are the posts through which the Gospel is shared, Yours are the updates through which hope is revealed. Christ has no online presence but yours, No blog, no Facebook page but yours.
  44. 44. References Ashworth, J. and Farthing, I. (2007) “Churchgoing in the UK: A Research Report from Tearfund on church attendance in the UK”, [online], Tearfund, Batts, S. (2013) “Informing, inviting or ignoring? Understanding how English Christian churches use the internet”, [online], Unpublished PhD, Baym, N. (2013) Personal Connections in the Digital Age, Cambridge: Polity Benedictus XVI (2013), “"Social Networks: portals of truth and faith; new spaces for evangelization."”, [online], 47th World Communications Day, Booth, R. (2012) “Census reveals decline of Christianity and rise in foreign born to one in eight”, [online], The Guardian, decline-rise-born-abroad Byers, A. (2013) Theomedia: The Media of God and the Digital Age, Oregon: Cascade Campbell, H. (Eds) (2012) Digital Religion: Understanding Religious Practice in New Media Worlds, New York: Routledge CODEC, (2009), The National Biblical Literacy Survey, Durham: CODEC Cray, G. (2009), “Fresh Expressions: An Introduction by Graham Cray”, [online], Drescher, E. (2011), Tweet if you Heart Jesus: Practicing Church in the Digital Reformation, New York: Morehouse Dutton, W.H. and Blank, G. (2013). “Cultures of the Internet: The Internet in Britain”, [online], Oxford Internet Surveys (OXIS), Dyer, J. (2011) From the Garden to the City: The Redeeming and Corrupting Power of Technology, Grand Rapids: Kregel Francis I (2014), “Pope Francis: Communication must promote culture of encounter”, [online], Vatican Radio Goodhew, D. (2012) Church Growth in Britain: 1980 to the Present, Farnham: Ashgate Gould, M. (2013) The Social Media Gospel, Minnesota: Liturgical Press Heim, T. and Birdsong, T. (2012) @StickyJesus: How to Live Out Your Faith Online, Nashville: Abingdon Hill, D. (2012), “Posts, Promises and Perenniel Issues”, [online], The BIGBible Project, Hutchings, T. (2013), “The Bible and Persuasive Technology”, [online], The BIGBible Project, Hutchings, T. (2013b), “Is piracy stealing? Thoughts on ethics and the Internet”, [online], The BIGBible Project, Keen, D. (2013), “2-Faced Facebook”, [online], Opinionated Vicar, Lewis, B. (2014) Raising Children in a Digital Age: Enjoying the Best, Avoiding the Worst, Oxford: Lion Hudson Lewis, B. and Rush, D. (2013) “Experience of developing Twitter-based communities of practice in higher education”, [online], Research in Learning Technology, London Institute for Contemporary Christianity (LICC), (2003), “Imagine Church: The Big Picture”, [online], Major, E. (2012), “Seeking God Online”, [online] McGrory, R. (2014), “UK Social Media Statistics for 2014”, [online] , McLuhan, M. (1964) Understanding Media: The Extensions of Man, Whitby: McGraw-Hill Office for National Statistics (ONS), (2011) “Full story: What does the Census tell us about religion in 2011?”, [online], characteristics-for-local-authorities-in-england-and-wales/rpt---religion.html Phillips, P., Lewis, B., Bruce, K. (2013) “Digital Communication, the Church and Mission”, [online] Church Growth Resourcing Mission Bulletin, Skinner, S. (2012), “UK Christians turning to Facebook to share their faith”, [online], New Media Centre of Excellence,” Smith, P. (2014), “Lead like Hezekiah”, [online], The BIGBible Project, Sutherland, R. (2013), “What does it mean to be a digital disciple with @changingworship”, [online], Audioboo, disciple-with-changingworship Taylor, B. (2014), “How are people sharing their faith online?”, [online],, Turkle, S. (2011), Alone Together: Why We Expect More from Technology and Less from Each Other, New York: Basic Books Vogt, B. (2011) The Church and New Media: Blogging Converts, Online Activists, and Bishops Who Tweet, Indiana: Our Sunday Visitor
  45. 45. Image Source: iStockphoto